SINGAPORE — The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has committed to correct a “misleading” article about the government’s position on a controversial anti-fake news law, said the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on Thursday (23 January).
In a statement, the AGC noted, “The SDP undertook to make the necessary corrections to the Article by the close of business today. The AGC expects the SDP to honour its undertaking and to refrain from further mischaracterising the Government’s position in these proceedings as per the Court’s reminder.”
Earlier on Thursday, a hearing was conducted between the two parties before Justice Ang Cheng Hock, regarding the AGC’s complaint about an article published last Saturday by the SDP titled “Whether a statement is true or false cannot be ‘based on the minister’s interpretation”.
According to AGC, the article falsely suggested that it is the agency’s stance that a minister’s interpretation of a subject statement is determinative of its meaning under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).
“This is incorrect. The AGC’s position is that it is the Courts that ultimately determine whether a statement bears the particular meaning relied on by the Minister in issuing a Correction Direction.”
AGC noted that Justice Ang also reminded the opposition party to ensure that all statements it makes in relation to the ongoing proceedings under POFMA are accurate.
Challenge to POFMA
SPD is currently mounting the first legal challenge to a POFMA directive.
Three correction directives were issued against SDP, over two Facebook posts and an online article by the party titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”.
The posts on SDP’s Facebook page, dated 30 November and 2 December last year, had contained links to the article, published on 8 June last year, which “contains a false statement of fact”, said the Ministry of Manpower, pertaining to the party’s allegation of a rising trend of local PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) unemployment.
A “misleading graphic” depicting plunging local PMET employment was also attached to the 2 December sponsored post, it added.
The SDP complied with the request to add a correction note to each of the Facebook posts and the article, which read in part, “This post contains a false statement of fact. There is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment. Local PMET employment has in fact increased consistently and continues to do so today.”
But on 2 January, the SDP called for Teo to retract the directives and issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology” over the matter.
The party applied to MOM to have the corrections cancelled the next day, but Teo rejected its application three days later. On 8 January, the SDP announced that it had filed a court challenge against Teo, calling POFMA “an unfair weapon of the ruling party” and the issue of foreign PMETs a “controversial policy”.
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